Time for an Update

Apologies for my absence in January (first month missed since I started in 2013).

Winter aconites

Winter aconites

snowdrops

snowdrops

2016 was almost continuous mayhem. Some of it was wonderful. Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home was published, and has gone down well with the people for whom it was mainly written – relatives of the men who were prisoners with my father. It has pleased my own relatives too as my mother’s work during the war was not known to them.

Phyllis Custance Baker with grandchild

Phyllis Custance Baker with grandchild

I survived the terror of public speaking, giving five full lectures on the story of the book, and there are more lined up for this year.

However, still on the home front, there were family health problems that required a great deal of time and mental energy, but which are happily now mostly resolved.

Segukaku maple in late winter and birch

Segukaku maple in late winter and birch

Moving outwards the national outlook was, and is, depressing. Brexit was a shock and I fear for the future not only of many European friends, but also of those from further afield who feel alienated by the toxic rhetoric of the Brexit campaigners. I also feel desperately sorry for those to voted OUT, genuinely believing this rhetoric and thinking that vast new sums of money would now be available to the NHS, and that stopping Europeans coming to the UK will make Britons better off and having no idea that so many of the schemes in deprived cities round the UK are funded by Europe.

I would never have imagined that all of this would seem insignificant 5 months later. The new president of the USA is a nightmare of such vast proportions that it is difficult to see how the world will recover. Even if he does not cause WWIII or accelerate climate change beyond recovery (and I feel both are highly likely), I still feel diminished as a human being that people not dissimilar to me, voted for this man.

Pepper tree

Pepper tree

If I can see how to make a difference, I hope I will stand up and be counted. In the meantime it will contribute at the micro-level – supporting and caring for those closest and treating all humans as I would wish to be treated myself. We give to the men and women working at charities’ coal faces and we try and care for the environment at home. This all feels like bailing out the boat with a leaky bucket.

So, I am cultivating my garden, or rather starting work on clearing the next bit of fence for replacement; looking after the hedgehog (who reappeared yesterday); growing my garlic; publishing my husband’s book and re-starting my next novel. Life goes on. dscn0205dscn0204dscn0201-version-2

I wish you all courage in facing this even more less than perfect world.

Some trees for Christmas or an alternative Christmas tree

As autumn approached this year I was looking forward to splashing photos of my beloved Japanese maples all over the blog. Then there was too much going on at home and in the world; they seemed out of place and the moment passed. So I will send all of you – the happy, the sad, the politically bruised, the new parents, the newly bereaved, the travellers and the homebodies, the ordinary and extraordinary people who drop into my blog – some maples for Christmas.

dscn0019 dscn9945-version-2dscn0017 dscn0026 dscn0018 dscn0020 Below one of the nine maples that have seeded over the years beginning to grow in beauty.dscn9985-version-2

And the alternative Christmas tree…   screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-17-06-24

Have a wonderful holiday season, and see you next year.

Amy’s drawings and interview with Suzy Henderson

More random, but happy, events – an email from daughter Amy with a lovely mini-show of her drawings

image1

at a curious event – the House and Garden pop-up-shop – Amy met some celebrities at the launch seen here at the Tatler website.

– an interview with writer Suzy Henderson, who has a passion for WWII history. Her questions about becoming a writer and the new Railway book made me think about my parents’ role in my writing. The interview appears on her WWII blogspot Lofell Writers Place and on her WordPress writer’s site. Something I found interesting on this last site is a persuasive videoed book review by Mike Reynolds.

Sorry, lots of links. Have a tree peony in it’s autumn glory to finish. dscn9971dscn9970

 

 

Still picking and painting… thank you Sally, Rod… and geese for Linda

(The random nature of my posts reflects my state of mind)

My much neglected vegetable plot and greenhouse are managing fine without me, and still supplying pickings. dscn9938

In August I meant to clean and re-stain all our external and internal woodwork. I finally started a couple of weeks ago. dscn9898

There’s an awful lot of it, and a lot of other important commitments, so I am like a jack-in-the-box – out if the sun shines, in doing other stuff the instant it looks like rain. I have become weather alert, but this had me foxed. dscn9902 dscn9901 dscn9900

The bits that are done look good, but most of the porch and the left-hand run of windows are still to finish.dscn9948 dscn9949

In between my other commitments there are the other, other commitments – four lectures in four different towns (I’m getting a little less fearful with each one) – and one more to go (with others in the pipeline).

Surviving the Death Railway is travelling the world – thank you to all my fellow bloggers who have bought copies, and to Sally Cronin for generously writing about my work and to Rod on Fragmented Mind for his wonderful review.

Photo for Linda – what I did when I was told to be careful of the geese.hilary-chasing-geese_2

 

The best laid plans…

… of mice, men and women are bound to run agley.

Just as I was getting back into a blogging routine, life has bowled me a googly and I shall have to prioritise ruthlessly for the next month or more. So once more, although I will be around, dropping in, and occasionally waving from the sidelines, I will not be visiting regularly and not posting much at all. When I don’t see or comment on your posts it is me, not you. I will be back.

Here is the book I am reading and which is engaging me completely. If you want to keep a perspective on our life on earth, this is the prescribed medicine. dscn9867-version-2 It starts with the simple premise that explorers have reached earth 100,000,000 years hence and then looks at what they might find. Actually it’s an accessible lesson in paleontology and stratigraphy (! my vocabulary is expanding).

And here are my delicious peppers (at least I hope they are, I haven’t eaten one yet), grown from seed. dscn9862 dscn9861

And finally the hips are colouring in the garden as autumn creeps up on us.dscn9869

À bientôt!

The less beautiful garden and a hedgehog for M-R

In true British fashion I am sometimes uncomfortable about undeserved praise. I love my garden and I agree that parts of it are beautiful, but… like any other garden it has a whole lot of corners the camera never sees. So here is the reality check. DSCN9822This bamboo outside the back door (note the weedy path) is my weather vane – I never water it. Below is what happens when it rains – though this is more rain than I have seen in all the 38 years we have lived here.DSCN9562And here are the sweet peas I so proudly grew from seed, chewed to pieces and covered in mildew. DSCN9802 - Version 2

And some ‘interesting’ though not very beautiful fungus on a hazel stump. DSCN9727DSCN9803This part of the veg plot has remained empty all summer. I missed sowing, or buying, any purple sprouting broccoli and failed to sow anything else. And here are a few dead plants.DSCN9801 DSCN9817 And scorched patches. DSCN9797And here is the promised hedgehog, M-R – well at least you can sort of see his paw.DSCN9848 2 DSCN9850We’ll finish with a roller that hasn’t budged for… twenty years?DSCN9810There, I am shriven of false pride. Pretty pictures next time, I promise!

Pumps, beans, peppers… and a temple?

Our garden is frying and, owing to my absent-mindedness in June when I emptied the underground rainwater harvester AND burnt out the pump, soft rainwater is in short supply. The pump is now (expensively) replaced. This shows the challenge of waterproofing the electrical component. I just love the men at play – sorry – work’. DSCN9638

Meanwhile the vegetable plot which was mostly growing marigolds, DSCN9660 - Version 2

is now pouring out beans – this morning’s haul – runners on left and flat French climbing bean Algarve on right – they are delicious and stringless (unless you miss them for weeks).DSCN9769 Autumn raspberries make good grazing and we are eating the first tomatoes too. I’m getting quite excited about the peppers. Patience is still required; we must wait for the yellow ones to turn red and the green ones to turn yellow … before they’re ripe. DSCN9736My husband has been hard at work in the unpleasaunce, recycling more parts of the old shed and has produced a … temple?DSCN9759 - Version 2During the June storms gravel was swept all the way down the concrete path on the right. This is because the ground on the other side of back fence is two foot higher – hence the barricade of ancient building stones that we have found around the garden. The old shed door atop the two uprights is meant to provide another log shelter.

Some rather crazy colour schemes I am enjoying. And in lovely contrast the indomitable DSCN9695Californian tree poppy (Romney coulteri) is lighting up the dried out August garden. I treat it mean and it never fails. DSCN9734